In his 85 years of animated existence, ever-youthful Mickey Mouse has lived a memorable life. Now Disney historian Jim Korkis chronicles that life in mesmerizing detail. From Mickey’s humble beginnings on Walt's Disney sketch pad through his dozens of films to his embodiment of the Disney dream and his popular appearances in the Disney theme parks - it’s all here, in the Book of Mouse.
From Steamboats to Theme Parks
Until now, Mickey Mouse’s life story was scattered across decades of books, articles, oral histories, and crumbling documents found only in the Walt Disney Archives. In Book of Mouse, Jim Korkis brings together all of these essential elements for the first time into a narrative that celebrates this very special Mouse.
Starting with the real story of Mickey’s creation, Korkis weaves well-researched facts with charming, insider stories and anecdotes. You’ll learn about the hidden secrets of Steamboat Willie, Mickey’s first film; the astonishing success of the first Mickey Mouse Club; the Mickey cartoons never made; the history of the Mickey costumed character in the theme parks (and the people inside them); the special relationships Mickey had with presidents, movie stars, playwrights, magicians, and even astronauts; and plenty more jam-packed in over 300 pages.
In addition, the book features a complete list of Mickey’s film and television appearances, with plot summaries, production notes, and trivia.
The Many Manifestations of Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a film star. He’s a television star. He’s the star of best-selling books, cartoon strips, and comic books. His image sells millions upon millions of dollars in merchandise. He’s the leader of the band, the central figure in the Disney universe, and perhaps the most recognizable character in the world. Everyone knows Mickey. But there’s so much you don't know about Mickey.
This is just some of what you'll discover in Jim Korkis’ Book of Mouse:
Debunking of the many myths still told about Mickey Mouse
The rise and rise of Mickey’s merchandising empire
History of Mickey Mouse at the Disney theme parks
What Mickey meant to Walt Disney, in Walt’s own words
Dozens of bite-size “Mouse-ka-Tales”
Plus answers to: How tall is Mickey? Where does he live? Why does he only have four fingers? Is he married to Minnie? And so much more!
Book of Mouse is a biography, ethnography, and filmography in one, the world’s first comprehensive, single-volume resource about Mickey Mouse. With its hundreds of fun stories, Mouse-ka-Tales, and Mickey milestones, the book is sure to enlighten and delight Mickey fans of all ages. Become the Mickey Mouse expert in your family!
Foreword by Don “Ducky” Williams Introduction by Jim Korkis
Mickey Mouse Myths
The Mickey Mouse Comic Strip
Floyd Gottfredson Interview
Mickey on the Radio: Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air
The Birth of Mickey Mouse Merchandise Magic
Mickey at the Movies
First Mickey Mouse Cartoon: Plane Crazy
The Making of Steamboat Willie
Hidden Secrets of Steamboat Willie
The First Mickey Mouse Club
UnMade Mickey Mouse Cartoons
The Making of Runaway Brain
Mickey Mouse at the Oscars
Behind the Stories of Mickey Mouse Cartoon Shorts
Mickey Mouse in Vietnam: Not a Disney Cartoon
Mickey's Surprise Party: The First Mickey Mouse Commercial
Hollywood Party: Mickey Goes Hollywood
More Mouse-ka-Tales: Mickey Movie Memories
Mickey Mouse Annotated Filmography (1928-2013)
Mickey at the Parks
A Mickey Mouse Park
Mickey Mouse Attractions
History of the Mickey Mouse Costumed Character
The Man Inside the Mouse: Paul Castle
Walt Disney World’s First Friend of Mickey Mouse: Doug Parks
Mickey Mouse Ears
Mickey Mouse Topiary
Mickey Mouse Balloons
Speaking of the Mouse
Final Word: Walt Disney on Mickey Mouse
Foreword by Senior Disney Character Artist Don “Ducky” Williams:
At the age of ten, I first wrote to Walt Disney for a job as an artist. I even got a letter back from Walt himself that I still have! It is one of the treasures in my collection. It basically said that he had no openings for a ten-year-old artist at the time but to keep drawing.
And I did. For years and years and years.
I worked at a bank and I decorated the walls at Christmas with my paintings of Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse. That caught the attention of a local television news show and eventually caught the attention of the Disney Company. They told me there were no openings in California for an artist but there might be in Florida.
From seven o’clock in the evening until two o’clock in the morning each night after work, I spent one week finishing one hundred Disney drawings to send to the person in charge in Florida. I sent another hundred drawings the second week. I sent another hundred drawings the third week. I continued to do that amount of drawings every week for two years.
I was afraid that if I cut back, they would think I was losing interest.
Finally, I just quit my job at the bank and moved to Florida. I wanted a mouse, Mickey Mouse, on my paycheck.
The art department at the time was underneath the Magic Kingdom in the Utilidors. I would go down there constantly until, finally, there was a temporary opening to increase the staff.
To convince the manager of the department that I was the guy for the job, the boxes and boxes of artwork that I had sent were brought in. It was over ten thousand drawings. So I was loaned out to the art department for thirty days.
The first week I did nothing but practice drawing Mickey from all angles and with every possible expression. Eight hours a day.
Within the first few weeks after I was hired to be a Disney Character Artist, I discovered that it wasn’t going to be the dream come true I thought it would be.
And it was all because of Mickey Mouse!
I’d already been drawing Mickey for years. My ability to draw him — and dozens of other Disney Characters — was what (I thought) qualified me to get this job after years of waiting, wishing, and drawing.
Two outstanding Disney Character Artists — Russell Schroeder and Harry Gladstone — were assigned to supervise my work. So, I’d sit down and draw Mickey.
Russell would look at it, lay tracing tissue over it, and show me what lines needed adjusting. That was fine, easy to fix, no problem.
Later, Harry would visit, check out the same drawing and show me a different approach with other line treatments.
This would go on and on, back and forth, day after day. I thought I would never be able to get Mickey right. Both of them couldn’t be wrong, right?
There weren’t wrong. Russell had a specific way of drawing Mickey. His was a more mature Mickey. Harry’s Mickey was a little more youthful.
Every artist who draws Mickey Mouse puts a bit of himself into the character no matter how closely they try to follow the approved model sheet. A model sheet was a reference developed for animation at Disney so that multiple artists would draw the character the same way. It shows how the character is constructed, how tall he is, hints about the placement of details, and more.
The general public just sees Mickey Mouse if all the right elements are there.
Trained artists, however, can pick out a Freddy Moore Mickey in ’40s cartoons, a Floyd Gottfredson Mickey in ’50s comics, a Mark Henn ’80s Mickey in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and so on.
They are all Mickey Mouse, every one of them. None of these depictions of Mickey are what we call “off model” (a term for a character drawing that doesn’t match the approved set of poses created for reference).
Drawing the characters is more than a job for me. It’s a way of life. Like many people, I have been infatuated with the characters since childhood. The characters are more than drawings to me. They are living, breathing personalities, and you’ve got to get that personality into your drawing. And the only way you can really project that personality of the characters is to really know the characters.
I know their films inside and out. I have studied the studio and the animators. If you show me a Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1934, I can tell you which animators animated which scene. That’s a Milt Kahl Mickey. That’s a Frank Thomas. I am that close to it. All of this study is to help me make the characters like Mickey come to life on the page.
When it came time to build Mickey Mouse’s house in Mickey’s Birthdayland at the Magic Kingdom to celebrate Mickey’s 60th birthday in 1988, Disney came to Russell Schroeder and myself because we knew the Mouse so well. Russell even wrote a book about Mickey’s life story in 1997.
We were amazed how little they knew about Mickey and how he lived.
“What does his house look like inside?” they asked. Russell and I just looked at each other and thought, “Just look at the cartoons. That’s what the inside of Mickey’s house looks like.”
The house had to be designed and built in three months, and so time was of the essence. I guess that’s why they came to us because we already knew. Russell and I designed all the furniture. We went to Home Depot to pick out carpeting and wallpaper. Mickey had a den and they had no props so I brought in my own: a snow globe of WDW, my Disneyland records, Disney books, etc., to decorate the Mouse’s domicile. Guests loved it.
When Mickey’s Toontown Fair opened years later in 1996, they had much more time and did a nice job redesigning the entire house with curved cartoony lines and wonderful little details.
Russell and I even illustrated together a Little Golden Book with Mickey, Mickey’s Prince and the Pauper, that first appeared in December 1990.
Over the decades, I have drawn Mickey Mouse on all sorts of merchandise and lithographs and I even taught singer Michael Jackson how to draw Mickey because he was so eager to learn. I have done seventy-five Disney Cruises and the guests always want to see me draw Mickey.
The more I get to know Mickey, through my drawings and through the ways I see how he affects so many people, from the simplest sketch to his appearances in Walt Disney World, the more aspects I discover about his personality, his emotional range, and his worldwide appeal.
And the Mickey Mouse I draw and paint is a little different from the others. After over 30 years now as Senior Character Artist for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, I must have been doing something right about drawing Mickey because they keep asking me to do it.
With all I’ve learned, I know I can always learn more, which is why I am grateful that my friend Jim Korkis has put together this book with all this wonderful information about Mickey Mouse. I intend to keep it handy.
Jim has a knack for uncovering new facts and setting the record straight on myths, and I know his book will give me a new perspective on Mickey.
Oh, by the way, I do wear an official Disney Cast Member nametag that says “Ducky”. It was a nickname my mother called me. I know that Clarence Nash’s nickname was also “Ducky” and he did a terrific job providing Donald Duck’s voice for decades.
In 1984, I met Clarence Nash in person. Along with Bill Justice and artist Russell Schroeder, we were to tour the country as part of the publicity campaign for Donald Duck’s 50th birthday. Clarence and I became friends and I have photos and things signed by him “To Ducky from Ducky”. Thank heavens, he had no problem letting me keep the nickname.
We were both ducks that loved the Mouse.
I know you’ll enjoy this book as much as I do! See ya real soon!
Don "Ducky" Williams Senior Disney Character Artist September 2013
Book of Mouse has many different types of content: articles, interviews, "Mouse-ka-Tales", film entries, and lots more.
These excerpts are just a sample of the riches you'll find inside:
Film Entry: The Cactus Kid (May 15, 1930 | Director: Walt Disney)
Synopsis: Minnie is performing in a Mexican cantina when she is kidnapped by Pete. She is rescued by Mickey as Pete tumbles down a cliff.
Notes: This was the last Mickey Mouse cartoon officially crediting Walt Disney as director. It has the first appearance of Pete with a peg leg in a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Marcellite Garner remembers it as the first time she did Minnie’s voice, although she is heard doing that voice in earlier cartoons as well. Mickey’s warning to Pete of “When you say that… smile” is a parody of Gary Cooper’s line in the Western The Virginian (1929), and got a good laugh from the audience. Beginning in the 1980s, censors have repeatedly censored the film, including removing a beer glass and cutting out scenes of gunplay.
EVERY Mickey Mouse film is described and analyzed in the book!
From Mouse-ka-Tales: Mickey Goes to War
In 1930, the German Board of Film Censors prohibited the Mickey Mouse short Barnyard Battle because they felt the kepi-wearing Mickey Mouse shown in the film fighting the helmeted cats negatively portrayed the Germans and would “reawaken the latest anti-German feeling existing abroad since the War.”
Perhaps the most oft-reprinted quote about Nazis hating Mickey Mouse is this: “Youth, where is thy pride? Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed. Mickey Mouse is a Young Plan medicine to promote weakness.
“Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal...Away with Jewish brutalization of the people! Down with Mickey Mouse! Wear the Swastika Cross!”
This diatribe was reprinted in the October 1931 issue of The Living Age magazine on page 183 in a small news blurb section entitled “Against Mickey Mouse”, prefaced with: “one of their [Nazi] newspapers in Pomerania has published the following malediction attacking young people who decorate themselves with little emblems of Mickey.”
The Nazis were well aware of the power of film and the popularity of Mickey Mouse, in particular, since young people wore images of Mickey including buttons and patches rather than swastikas.
In his diary entry for December 22, 1937, Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, wrote: “I am giving the Fuhrer… 18 Mickey Mouse films (as a Christmas gift). He is very excited about it. He is very happy about these treasures which will hopefully bring him much fun and relaxation.”
Goebbels chose to give this gift because he knew that during July 1937, in Hitler’s private screening room, the Fuhrer had watched five Mickey Mouse cartoons and laughed loudly.
From Mouse-ce-llaneous: The Birth of Mickey Mouse Merchandise Magic
In January 1930, Carolyn “Charlotte” Clark, who had been making her livelihood selling cookies and novelties during the Great Depression, came up with an idea of how to use her talents as a seamstress to earn extra money.
She sent her fourteen-year-old nephew, Bob Clampett, who later would become a legendary Warner Bros. cartoon director and the creator of Beany and Cecil, to the Alex Theater in Glendale, California. Clampett sat through three consecutive showings in order to see a Mickey Mouse short several times so he could sketch the character. There were no illustrations of Mickey Mouse available at that time other than on movie posters.
From those sketches, Clark made the first stuffed Mickey Mouse doll. Clampett’s father advised her to get Walt Disney’s permission before she started selling them. He drove her to the Disney Studio. Both Walt and Roy loved the doll. They rented a house near their Hyperion Studio, later nicknamed the Doll House, where Clark worked on making the doll in three different sizes.
Bob Clampett earned thirty cents per doll stuffing each one with kapok and brushing off the excess. Clampett’s father became the head salesman.
At first, the dolls were purchased by Walt and Roy to give to friends, business acquaintances, and special visitors to the studio. Clampett recalled:
“Walt Disney himself sometimes came over in an old car to pick up the dolls. One time, his car loaded with Mickeys wouldn’t start, and I pushed while Walt steered until it caught and he took off.”
In 1930, after a photo of Walt with one of the dolls appeared in Screen Play Secrets magazine and in several newspapers, the demand from the general public became overwhelming. Stores were swamped with calls from customers wanting a doll just like the one they saw in the photos.
By November 1930, Clark was producing 300-400 dolls per week for sale at two large Los Angeles area department stores, May Company and Bullock’s, for five dollars each. The department stores only paid two dollars and fifty cents per doll, and so made an amazing profit. Clark had to employ six full-time seamstresses to meet demand.
Roy O. Disney wrote in 1931:
“The doll we are having manufactured [by Clark] is, as many buyers have stated, the truest character doll of its kind that they have ever seen. You must realize that this means far more to [Walt and me] than the mere royalties involved in the sale of the doll.”
When demand continued to exceed what the overworked staff could make, the Disney brothers decided to release the Charlotte Clark doll pattern to the general public and let people make their own dolls. They were not concerned about the profit from the dolls being sold but rather with satisfying public demand for the dolls. Some families simply could not afford the price of the doll in those hard times, and Walt felt that every child who wanted a Mickey Mouse doll should have one.
The McCall Company of New York released Printed Pattern No. 91 in early 1932 with twenty seven pieces, one transfer, and one tissue sheet of directions at a cost of thirty-five cents. The pattern was printed in English, French, and Spanish, and it was sold from 1932 through 1939 in the United States and Europe. Although the pattern came with the warning that it was sold “for individual use only and not to be used for manufacturing purposes”, many out-of-work seamstresses during the Great Depression earned a nice living making and selling the dolls in quantity for a monetary “donation”.
In 1934, Knickerbocker Toy Company in New York started producing Mickey and Minnie dolls based on Clark’s patterns. Clark designed other dolls for the company, and when Gund Manufacturing took over the production of the dolls after World War II, Clark designed their Disney dolls until 1958. She passed away on December 31, 1960, at the age of 76.
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for over three decades. He is also an award-winning teacher, a professional actor and magician, and the author of several books.
Jim grew up in Glendale, California, right next to Burbank, the home of the Disney Studios. As a teenager, Jim got a chance to meet the Disney animators and Imagineers who lived nearby and began writing about them for local newspapers.
In 1995, he relocated to Orlando, Florida, where he portrayed the character Prospector Pat in Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom and Merlin the Magician for the Sword in the Stone ceremony in Fantasyland
In 1996, Korkis became a full-time animation instructor at the Disney Institute teaching all of their animation classes, as well as those on animation history and improvisational acting techniques. As the Disney Institute re-organized, Jim joined Disney Adult Discoveries, the group that researched, wrote, and facilitated backstage tours and programs for Disney guests and Disneyana conventions.
Eventually, Korkis moved to Epcot as a Coordinator for the College and International Programs, and then as a Coordinator for the Epcot Disney Learning Center. He researched, wrote, and facilitated over two hundred different presentations on Disney history for Cast Members and for such Disney corporate clients as Feld Entertainment, Kodak, Blue Cross, Toys “R” Us, and Military Sales.
Korkis has also been the off-camera announcer for the syndicated television series Secrets of the Animal Kingdom, has written articles for such Disney publications as Disney Adventures, Disney Files (DVC), Sketches, and Disney Insider, and has worked on many different special projects for the Disney Company.
In 2004, Disney awarded Jim Korkis its prestigious Partners in Excellence award.
A Chat with Jim Korkis
New Chat Coming Soon
“Having worked with Mickey Mouse since 1955, when I was twelve years old, I have often wanted to know things about him but thought it impertinent to query a much bigger star. That was even true when just Mickey and I did a thirteen-state tour to promote the $6,000,000 refurbishment of Fantasyland at Disneyland in 1983 where the Mouseketeers first appeared on opening day and Mick and I met in person. JIM KORKIS to the rescue! Now I can get answers to all those questions plus a lot more!!!”
“Described by Walt Disney as ‘a little personality assigned to the purposes of laughter,’ Mickey Mouse has been doing just that — for an astonishing 85 years! In celebration of that remarkable achievement, Jim Korkis has assembled the thoughtful and admirable tribute you hold in your hands, a book from one of Mickey’s fans that is sure to be welcomed by devoted legions.”
RUSSELL SCHROEDER Author of Mickey Mouse: My Life in Pictures and Disney’s Lost Chords
Author of Mickey Mouse: My Life in Pictures and Disney’s Lost Chords “Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse has a rich and fascinating history which has evolved thanks to the contributions of many very talented individuals. I love Jim’s accuracy and attention to detail in compiling this history. This book will stand as a valuable reference work for myself and for anyone else interested in the creation and evolution of Mickey.”
MILTON GREY | Animator and Historian Author of Cartoon Animation: Introduction to a Career
“Finally, all the important details and little known facts about Walt Disney’s iconic mouse contained in one book — and what better time to cover the topic than Mickey’s 85th birthday! I can think of no one more qualified than Jim Korkis to write the definitive fact book on the life and times of one of the world’s most beloved cartoon characters. As one who has studied Disney history for decades, Jim’s books always contain interesting tidbits not covered anywhere else — this book is no exception!”